Fixing world poverty may seem like an altruistic dream that only Miss Universe contestants are able to aspire towards. But according to international development experts, our idealistic goal of eradicating global poverty is very achievable.
“In fact, I’ve seen it done over and over again in community after community,” says Plan International Australia CEO, Ian Wishart. “But you can’t solve poverty in a community in one year.
“Most poverty is intergenerational and passed on from one generation to the next. That’s why people often miss seeing the change because it’s taking place in communities over a long period of time, around 15-to-20 years. So to end poverty, you have to break that generational cycle.”
Although there’s no ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to solving poverty, there are a few of the effective interventions, employed by development agencies, in a bid to eradicate poverty in communities across the globe.
...People often miss seeing the change because it’s taking place in communities over a long period of time, around 15-to-20 years.
1. Mobilse local communities
The global non-profit organisation, The Hunger Project, works with volunteers and leaders in wealthy countries like Australia to run grass-roots hunger eradication programs in communities throughout Africa, Asia and India.
Perth-GP and a long standing Hunger Project volunteer, Dr Gary Ward, says the first step is to empower communities to believe in their ability to eradicate poverty and in the fact that they deserve a good quality of life.
“We recognise that in poorer countries and communities, there is a pervasive mindset that the situation is desperate and they are resigned to that fact that they are ‘poor’,” Dr Ward tells SBS.
“But if you think about it, there’s enough food on the planet to feed every woman, man and child: it’s just that it’s shared unequally. So we aim to shift the conversation about poverty from ‘it’s insolvable’ to ‘there must be a solution’.”
The organisation, which has no religious affiliation, trains local volunteers to be leaders and agents of change to “move their communities out of poverty with a positive mindset”.
“We discovered that when you shift that mindset, things can change.
“You can create a vision with a community and ask them to be committed to a pathway that they choose and take action.”
...If you think about it, there’s enough food on the planet to feed every woman, man and child: it’s just that it’s shared unequally.
2. Focus on females
The Hunger Project also concentrates a lot of its resources on women in poverty, training them to be leaders, and equipping them with the skills and microfinance needed to start their own businesses.
Plan International Australia also supports the advancement of females helps to lift communities out of poverty.
“Many girls don’t get to finish school, get the same education as boys, are forced into an early marriage and will never get the chance to get a paying job and it’s almost inevitable that their children will also be poor,” says Wishart.
“So if you can empower a girl, give her an education and get her to make her own choices about love and marriage, and help her to get her first paying job, you can almost bet that her children won’t grow up in poverty.
“But you can’t help a girl to get an education and end the cycle if she is drinking dirty water and getting sick or doesn’t want to go to school because there are no clean toilets.”
Wishart says agencies must also work with communities to ensure there are adequate medical interventions in place in case children get sick and good career prospects for females and males to find and keep a job after school.
“Sexual and reproductive health is also vital because otherwise, children who grow up to be teens and adults end up playing Russian Roulette with their lives if they don’t take adequate steps to prevent disease. They can contract HIV AIDS and their health can deteriorate rapidly.
“Females need to know they have choices, be educated about sexual services so they can plan a safe and fulfilling sexual and reproductive life.”
Mass poverty is an unnatural condition and it’s not the way that humans are supposed to be. It’s entirely within our reach to eliminate it.
3. Facilitate the ethical functioning of power
Dr Ward adds that agencies must also pay due attention to local government dynamics to reduce red tape that holds up funds and progress, and guarantee that projects employed on the ground actually deliver their intended goals, without being held up or torn down by local governments.
“We work with local communities to enable them to work with local governments and ensure they are ethical and stick to the rules of government.”
Although these three approaches may seem simplistic, they are merely pillars used to build an individualised multifactorial strategy upon.
The fact is, says Wishart, you have to start from somewhere. And if the world thinks globally and acts locally, then worldwide poverty can be eradicated in 30-50 years.
“Mass poverty is an unnatural condition and it’s not the way that humans are supposed to be,” says Wishart. “It’s entirely within our reach to eliminate it.”